From the day when it is sent out to a scientific journal, it takes 4-12 months for a research paper to be published.
Why does this happen?
The paper needs to undergo an editorial process where the journal will evaluate whether the paper meets its criteria for publication.
While the editorial process provides a valuable mechanism to scrutinize the quality of the science, the delay in publication slows scientific progress since the data is unavailable to other researchers for months or years after it was obtained. If the results can be shared earlier with the broader scientific community, they could be used to accelerate science.
How can this be remedied?
You can immediately make your research available to the scientific community by posting a preprint!
Researchers can post their work as a preprint when they think it is ready to share with the scientific community. This allows them to share their work with other scientists months in advance of the journal publication. This can be done when a researcher submits the manuscript to a journal for review or even earlier. Early posting of a manuscript can help the authors to get feedback and improve the manuscript.
At the same time, posting a preprint doesn’t prevent scientists from publishing the same research results in a traditional scientific journal. Many journals have policies that are compatible with preprints, and some journals even require that the work has been shared as a preprint in order to consider the manuscript for publication. Preprints and journal publications complement each other, with preprints allowing for rapid communication of research findings and journal publications providing a slower process that incorporates validation using peer review.
Preprints played a major role in sharing science early in the COVID-19 pandemic when the research community and the public couldn’t wait months for the peer-review process. Imagine waiting months to learn how the virus spreads or to learn the genetic sequence of a virus. Such a delay would cost lives.
The pandemic has shown that rapid sharing of research can help accelerate the scientific process and lead to finding solutions quicker. We can learn from it and use preprints to accelerate scientific progress in other areas of science as well.
How to write a preprint
A preprint often resembles a scientific article that is ready to be submitted to a journal, but as long as it contains a complete description of the data, methods, and context, it can be relatively concise. There are preprints on many popular servers that have only a single figure or table.
How to post a preprint
Before preprinting, we suggest completing the following steps:
- Get all authors on board with preprinting. Refer to the information in the Preprint Resource Center (including our Preprint FAQ) to address any questions.
- Choose a preprint server. Consider visibility, funder recommendations, and features like preservation and indexing, which are cataloged in the ASAPbio list of Preprint Servers.
- Double-check journal policies on when and where preprints may be posted.
- Choose a license.
- Upload any code/data/reagents you want to share to appropriate repositories.
- Post the preprint!
Share the preprint with colleagues and invite feedback via social media or email.
If you have more questions, visit the ASAPbio Preprint FAQ.